Monday, September 07, 2015

Fat Tom

FROG HOSPITAL -- September 2, 2015 -- unsubscribe anytime
Fat Tom
By Fred Owens
Fat Tom was the father of Seth Anderson. Seth was driving the car that night when his half-brother Eben Berriault leaned out the window with his gun and shot Scott Kinkele in the back of the head. That was in July of 2000 on Highway 20 in Skagit County, Washington.
You can't blame Fat Tom for what Seth did that night, but if you knew him and you knew Seth, you could see some traits that were passed on from father to son...
Ballistics. I am not telling this story in any orderly fashion, but as it comes to me. I made an inquiry to Lane Dexter of Newhalem, a village way up the Skagit Valley. Lane works on the Skagit River dams that send hydroelectric power to the great cities of the Pacific Northwest.
Lane takes after his father Ralph Dexter who also worked on the dams and kept a small ranch with horses near the village of Marblemount, also near the Skagit River dams.
Lane, like his father, is a skilled marksman and well-versed in ballistics, which is why I asked him about the crime on Highway 20.

Lane has been my friend since I met him in 1970 when we were both quite young. He was careful about how he answered my questions about the shooting. That's why I asked him. Lane is a steady fellow with a good heart. He helped me to examine this tragic crime in a calm manner.
Seth was driving drunk at highway speed that night. Eben Berriault was also drunk and shooting at signs and cars as they wove along the road near midnight. They pulled up behind Scott Kinkele's car. Eben leaned out the window and fired his shotgun at Kinkele, killing him instantly. Kinkele's car made a sickening slow spin across the grass meridian and came to a halt against the fence on the other side of the road. Seth and Eben kept going at high speed back to their home in Anacortes.
Eben was no experienced marksman. He was a convicted felon with no right to even possess a weapon. He was drunk and he was leaning out the window of Seth's car and firing at a moving target. Why didn't he miss? How many times did people say that or think that -- why didn't he miss? It was a bad luck shot if ever there was one.
Lane disavowed expertise or particular knowledge of the case. He only said that such an unlucky shot was possible, and could be fatal. It was more than likely that Eben would have missed, but  he didn't miss and the tragedy unfolded.

Over and Over Again

How many times has that scene played in Eben's head as he watched Kinkele's car make its sickening spin across the grass meridian? Why didn't he miss? Eben is serving a life sentence in Monroe Prison.
Seth was driving the car, and that made him culpable. He could have stopped it but he didn't. But Seth doesn't replay the scene in his mind like Eben does, over and over again. Seth left his prison cell at Walla Walla Prison as he left this world. He was found in his cell near to death in January of 2001, some six months after the murder. But I will tell that later. Now for Fat Tom, who was Seth Anderson's father.
Fat Tom. Tom Anderson grew up in East Los Angeles, of dubious parentage and casual circumstances. He was a mimic of
Cheech and Chong and seemed to know their life story personally. He served time in the Chino Correction Center for Juvenile Delinquents, although he did not say what crime brought him there. He told prison stories the way some men tell war stories or college stories.
The tragic thing about Tom was that he was so damn smart. He was seriously intelligent. He read books with complete understanding, and he was verbally adept. But he never had the chance, or never took the chance, to develop his mind.
He was a very big man. Not tall,  five foot ten inches at most. But wide. A massive chest, legs like tree trunks, arms strong as marble. He was not fat, but we called him Fat Tom because of his large big-boned frame.
He had light-brown curly hair that hung down straggly around his face and to the back of his neck. He had sparkling blue eyes and a tawny complexion. He was Irish with a dash of Hawaiian.

Fat Tom was a provider and hunter. He would dive into a dumpster and come up with ten pounds of cheese past its due date. Once he came into camp with a burlap sack full of wild honey and honey combs. He had ripped apart a rotten log with his bare hands and scooped out the honey. Many bee stings he got for that, like it was nothing. Once driving late at night, he struck and killed a deer. He stopped the bus, dressed and butchered the deer on the spot, working by flashlight. The bus riders made a camp outside of Carrizo Springs, which is a small town in South Texas near Uvalde, and ate venison for two days, inviting people from town to join them. "We're having a feast," Fat Tom said. "Plenty of venison for every one, come and join us -- and bring beer."
Another time, Fat Tom went to a farmer's field outside of Rio Grande City to harvest the honey dew melons. Maybe he asked permission, or may he didn't, but he brought a pile back to camp, a hundred melons in a heap. Everybody ate melons.
Fat Tom was a big man and like a shark -- he had to keep eating every day. His life was chaotic, he had no plan, but he took care of himself, and honestly, he didn't always ask.

He drank beer, smoked pot, smoked tobacco, liked to talk, talking all the time, telling jokes, he never got in fights.

If some guy would give him a hard time, Fat Tom would laugh it off and talk him down. Not to fight, just to have his bowl of beans and a bedroll by the campfire, that's what he wanted.
This was in 1973. Eva Sue had been married to the father of Eben Berriault. They were living in Berkley, California, but they divorced. Eva Sue went back to the logging country near Mount Shasta, bringing Eben and his younger brother Jesse with her, settling in Fall River Mills, a small town. She soon got restless and got some wild ideas, to live like a gypsy and go from place to place, to live from day to day. She made a pack and a bedroll for herself and those two kids and hitched a ride down to Arizona, right down near the Mexican border, near a town called Arivaca, going to a hippie camp called California Gulch.
These border camps like California Gulch never seemed to belong to anybody back then, good for maniacs, free spirits, mystics and criminals, and hard to tell the saints from the sinners, but you took your chances, and if you wanted to be somebody else, you could be somebody else. Nobody would ask questions, or expect an answer.
Eva Sue met Fat Tom at California Gulch, but they did not become a couple right off. Instead they set off on a hippie bus for South Texas to make the peyote ritual, which is a cactus type of hallucinogenic, guaranteed, upon consumption, to make loopy people even loopier.
Lots of things happened on that hippie bus. They all ended up in Michoucan way down in Mexico and hardly knew how they got there. The bus broke down. So they all left the bus and went their separate ways. Fat Tom got arrested by the Mexican Police for being an illegal immigrant. He had no papers and no money, and no visible means of support. They deported him back to America. Years later Fat Tom made a funny story out of  that. "I was a wetback in Mexico and they threw me out, ha ha!"
Fat Tom caught up with Eva Sue again, plus Eben and Jesse -- remember those boys, 8 and 10 years of age, were riding on this bus along with the gang -- but Fat Tom and Eva Sue wanted to get off the road and end the migrant life, so they moved to Montana and got a cabin and lived there for several years.
Fat Tom did farm and ranch work, steady enough. Eva took his last name and became Eva Anderson. They had two children, Seth, born in 1977 and  Grace Anderson, born several years later. You know about Seth and his crime and that is why I am writing this story.
But let me finish Fat Tom's story. Fat Tom did not take too well to settled life with a family. Life is very hard in Montana, especially in the wintertime. He began to drink a lot more than ever and became less reliable and may have been abusive -- I'm not sure about that last part and I hope it's not true, but I can see Fat Tom just kind of giving up on things, like he was never going to make it in the real world, and Eva Sue got tired of pretending that he would make it, so she packed up the kids, five of them by now, and two of them with Fat Tom. She packed up her things and her children and moved to Wenatchee in Washington state.
I lost track of Fat Tom after Eva Sue left him. He must have drifted around. Once he came up to Washington to see Eva Sue and the kids and that's where I saw him for the last time. He was still trying to make a joke out of everything, but I was tired of the joke and did not enjoy his company.
He went back to  the old streets of East Los Angeles, down and out, sleeping in his car, drunk every day and they found him in his car, dead.
Tom Anderson was a good man in his way and he meant well. He deserves a Requiem.

Like Father, Like Son. Seth Anderson was like his dad, and I mean that in a good way. Seth was a provider and a hunter and he wanted to take care of people. He wanted to love somebody. He wanted to do things that would make his mother proud. He almost made it, but I will tell how Seth's life ended at age 23 in the next and last part of this story, coming soon.

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